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Ancient Egypt Magazine -- Volume Eighteen Issue Five - April 2018

Book Reviews

Book Reviews Index


Tutankhamun’s Regent: Scenes and Texts from the Memphite Tomb of Horemheb

by G.T. Martin


Introducing this long-anticipated publication, Geoffrey Martin explains that in planning an update of Vol I of his 1989 book, The Memphite Tomb of Horemheb, he wanted to improve the layout and the quality of the plates, especially the line drawings. In his wish to reproduce all the photographs alongside more recent material he was somewhat thwarted by the fact that the photographic originals had not been returned to the EES. He had to find replacements from a variety of sources and some only came to light when the new book was in an advanced stage of production, but the collection of 181 monochrome and 19 colour plates is well worth the wait! Martin remarks on the desultory and unscientific nineteenth century ‘excavations’ which led to many pieces from Horemheb’s tomb ending up in museums around the world, and how the work of the joint EES-Leiden Expedition, since 1975, has helped to make sense of those disparate and often poorly interpreted artefacts. The book takes us on a walk-through of the tomb, its courts, chapel and complex substructure, exploring the building phases and describing the remaining decoration in fascinating detail.

This includes a study of several giant ‘jigsaw puzzles’ in which extant fragments of relief are matched with museum pieces. For instance, the base section of a stela, partner to one in the British Museum, is connected with five fragments in Cairo and the lunette (arched top) in St. Petersburg.

The tomb contains reliefs of great historical and artistic importance, giving us much information about the reign of Tutankhamun and the personal career of Horemheb, the King’s Regent and Great Commander of the Army. In situ fragments, and others in Bologna and Leiden, show the General receiving foreign tribute, accepting the submission of enemy chieftains and recording the booty from military campaigns. Further reliefs, connected with pieces in the Louvre and Munich, illustrate funerary offerings and rituals such as the ‘breaking of the pots’, and a series of house interiors. Four fragments bear an image of Horemheb adoring Osiris; the accompanying hymn (translation and commentary by Jacobus Van Dijk) is the earliest known version to relate Osiris to the nocturnal form of Ra.

Discussions of the statues and fragments associated with the tomb, as well as the later graffiti, emphasise the comprehensive nature of this erudite book – an essential reference for the study of the late Eighteenth Dynasty.


EES Excavation Memoir III Egypt Exploration Society, 2017

ISBN 978-0-85698-224-8

Hardback, £70.


Hilary Wilson


Egyptian Art (World of Art Series)

by Bill Manley


Bill Manley is better known for his best-selling books on hieroglyphs, but this insightful analysis of ancient Egyptian art demonstrates that his expertise stretches far more widely.

Although modest in size, this volume, illustrated with 274 mostly colour photographs, is a tour-de-force which encompasses all periods from the Predynastic to the Roman era.

Readers of AE will be familiar with most, if not all, of the statues, objects, buildings and wall paintings he selects; however, the work is not aimed principally at those with previous knowledge, but at a much wider audience – those who may be unaware of the underlying multi-layered significance of the art and subtle meanings that only a knowledge of the context of the pieces can reveal.

Manley points out that, since it comes from tombs and temples, almost all the surviving art has a religious significance; even the temples themselves, for example, are thought of as offerings to the gods. And much of the art was created never to be seen again except by the gods, consigned to the dark interior of temples or buried with the deceased. For instance, in examining the calcite statue of Amenhotep III with Sobek-Ra, now in the Luxor Museum, he shows that, while we can appreciate the beauty and superb craftsmanship of the statue and the skill with which the figures are placed relative to one another, the bizarre conjunction of a human figure with a crocodile-headed god (shown in the form of a protective father to the pharaoh) can only be understood in terms of ancient religious beliefs.

The book is arranged in three parts: ‘Art & Creation’, which deals with the depiction of offerings to the gods and to the deceased pharaoh, and the theories of the Creation in art and architecture; ‘Art & The Artists’, which identifies some of the officials in charge of major building works, discusses the Deir el-Medina workmen, and also deals with the principles of artistic representation and the canon of the human figure; and ‘Art in Context’, which traces the development of art through the millennia.

Each part is subdivided into chapters and interspersed with ‘masterpieces' which are discussed in greater depth.

By analysing each item, the author covers an impressive range of topics, giving the novice reader a basic understanding of most aspects of ancient Egyptian civilisation.

However, this is not an ‘easy read’: the text contains many abstract concepts that will prove thought-provoking to even the most experienced Egyptologist.

Thames & Hudson, 2017I

ISBN 978-0-500-20428-3

Paperback, £12.95.




Aristocrats and Archaeologists: An Edwardian Journey on the Nile

by Toby Wilkinson and Julian Platt

It is a well-established trait of human nature to be intrigued by the private lives of others, whether they are celebrities, historical characters or even the subjects of office gossip. This book harnesses that interest by presenting private letters relating to an Edwardian journey on the Nile in the ‘golden age of Egyptology’.

Ferdinand ‘Ferdy’ Platt travelled to Egypt in 1907-8 as the personal physician of the 8th Duke of Devonshire, who, like so many of his wealthy contemporaries, travelled to Egypt for their health in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Through his letters, we can enjoy Ferdy’s personal observations of this journey, including descriptions of the people and landscapes he encountered on the way, but also insights into the class system which at that time was in its death throes.

Ferdy himself was an amateur Egyptologist and an accomplished artist, and the authors provide a charming description of how he had decorated the box which housed the letters with faithful reproductions of ancient Egyptian tomb scenes. Wellcrafted hieroglyphic inscriptions were also painted on the box, telling how Ferdy made the box as a memento for his daughter Violet after his return from Egypt. The book’s endpapers are beautifully illustrated with these hieroglyphs, which allow the reader to experience ‘opening’ the box to find the letters within. The reader can follow every stage of the group’s journey along the Nile aboard the steamer SS Serapis through transcriptions of letters, accompanying descriptions and references, and an itinerary reference list corresponding to the group’s upstream and downstream journeys.

The level of detail provided by the authors is further illustrated by family trees of both the Devonshire party and Ferdy Platt’s family, giving the reader a thorough background to these characters. Ferdy’s letters also tell how the group met some wellknown individuals including Winston Churchill and Howard Carter, the latter inviting Ferdy over to lunch with him in 1908.

Illustrated with colour and blackand- white images and sketches, this book provides a rare personal snapshot of one man’s experience of Egypt at a pivotal moment when archaeology was beginning to develop as a science, and Egypt was on the brink of entering the modern age.

AUC Press, 2017

ISBN 978-9-774-16845-1

Hardback, £24.95.


Anna Garnett


The Coffins of the Priests of Amun: Egyptian coffins from the 21st Dynasty in the collection of the National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden

edited by Lara Weiss


Coffins in ancient Egypt were containers that physically and magically protected a mummified corpse. They can also be regarded today as socio-historical documents recording status, gender, wealth, geographic location, commodity availability, craft details and religious information relating to the deceased. This is the subject material of this brief publication concerning the Twenty-first Dynasty coffins of the priests of Amun, in the collection of the National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden. The study also represents the results of the Leiden contribution to the Vatican Coffin Project.

These anthropoid wooden ‘yellow’ coffins were part of the important Bab el-Gauss cache, discovered near the Hatshepsut temple-precinct in 1891.

The well-preserved collection of 153 coffin sets of the priests and chantresses of Amun was later divided up between museums in some 35 countries including the Netherlands.

Details of the history of the find and how Leiden received part of the cache are included in this book, although there is little in the way of descriptions of the specific coffins or information regarding the biography of their owners. A chapter by Elsbeth Geldof discusses how paint research and material analysis is able to shed light on the techniques utilised in the adornment of the Leiden coffins, in particular the materials in use during the Twenty-first Dynasty, the sequence in which they were applied and brushing techniques, all of which are necessary to recognise before any conservation treatment can be planned.

Kathlyn Cooney examines coffin reuse, and she describes how she has amassed data from 250 coffins worldwide that date to the Twenty-first Dynasty. Her research indicates that some 60% of these were reused for another deceased individual. As this period was a time of crisis and economic scarcity, wood in particular would have been a limited commodity.

It would seem that there was almost a communal agreement that coffin reuse was the best possible way of managing the practical problem of limited resources. This challenges the traditional view in Egyptology that tomb robbery and reuse were abnormal and unseemly; rather reuse can now be seen as part of necropolis life.

An interesting publication, with many full-page colour photographs, which focusses on certain aspects of the Leiden collection. The preface hints that there may be further reports from Leiden on later phases of the project.

Sidestone Press, 2018

ISBN 978-90-8890-492-9

Paperback, £45.


Roger Forshaw


Trésors photographiques d’Égypte: Antonio Beato, Photographe de Haute-Égypte De 1859 à 1905

by Gérard Réveillac

If the beautiful photographs of Antonio Beato are well appreciated, very little is known of the man himself; only some elements of his life have been recorded by biographers until now. This new book traces the work of this exceptional Italo-English photographer, who recorded the sites of Egypt from 1859 to 1905 at a time when Egyptology was in its infancy.

The author of this work, Gérard Réveillac, has mainly worked for the CFEETK (Centre Franco-Égyptien d’Étude des Temples de Karnak) and so was easily able to access the originals of the Beato Photographic Fund in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo. This was the starting point for his study of Beato’s work, encompassing many collections and reproduction archives around the world.

The book, fully illustrated with Beato’s black-and-white photographs, is subdivided into three parts, the first being titled ‘An Egyptian Life’. In spite of the lack of written material about Beato’s life, by studying the photographs themselves, the author is able to shed light on many aspects of Beato’s 46-year stay in Luxor. After his death in 1905, his laboratory (and one of his cameras) and tens of thousands of postcards issued from his lab passed in the hands of Attye Gaddis, well known for his photographic shop at the foot of the Winter Palace.

The text is written in French, although is easy to follow for anyone with some knowledge of the language, but non-French speakers will find immense enjoyment in the photographs alone, which make up the bulk of the volume, forming a catalogue of 106 photographic plates of views of Cairo, Alexandria and Thebes. The last part of the work is devoted to Beato’s photographic work in Upper Egypt, the difficulties encountered and the analysis of some of his ethnographic plates.

In summary, Gérard Réveillac has revealed a great deal of new information on Antonio Beato, including previously unseen images of Upper Egypt that should be of prime importance to many Egyptologists and Egyptophiles.

Actes Sud, Arles (F), 2017.

ISBN 978-2-330-07588-0

Hardback, £32.


Raymond Betz


War & Trade with the Pharaohs: An Archaeological Study of Ancient Egypt's Foreign Relations

by Garry Shaw

By declaring this book suitable for interested readers wanting to learn more about Egypt’s interaction with foreigners, Garry Shaw has aimed it squarely at AE Magazine’s readership and has hit the mark. Having provided some clear and useful maps he takes his readers on a historical and geographical journey – “passports ready, bags (over)packed … guidebook at hand”. He calls on a range of archaeological and textual sources to present an Egypt which differs somewhat from the conventional picture of an introspective, almost xenophobic culture, immune to foreign influences.

Beginning with the earliest contact with Nubia and the Levant, he describes how Egypt had extensive trading contacts from Prehistoric times. He describes the exchange of commodities, ideas and technologies, diplomatic and trade delegations, and the more familiar stories of military campaigns. Evidence for the regular movement of both people and goods, by water and overland, explains the presence of foreigners in Egypt, and Egyptians in foreign lands. The interpretation of tomb biographies, such as that of Weni (Sixth Dynasty) and other literary works, like The Report of Wenamun (Third Intermediate Period), together with details from rock-carved inscriptions along routes to mines and quarries, reveals how proactive the Egyptians were in seeking out foreign contact; for instance, it seems possible that Egypt first made contact with Crete before the Old Kingdom.

Shaw describes the different methods of transport, from the humble donkey to warships built, with the help of specialist foreign shipwrights, at the royal dockyard of Peru-nefer, in Memphis. The ancient administrative capital is shown to have become a multi-cultural centre attracting merchants, traders, craftsmen and itinerant workers in addition to foreign dignitaries, messengers and scribes.

In discussing the exploits of the great warrior pharaohs Thuthmose III and Ramesses II, to name but two, Shaw discusses the significance of Nubian ‘conscripts’ and foreign ‘mercenaries’ from Middle Kingdom times up to Ramesses III’s wars with the Sea Peoples, when Sherden warriors were fighting for both sides. He evaluates the improvements in weaponry as the Egyptians adapted and adopted foreign military technologies, including surprising evidence that Hittite-style shields were being produced at Ramesses II’s capital Pi-Ramesse, and that the body of the Fifteenth or Sixteenth Dynasty King Senebkay shows signs of his having been a horse-rider.

An entertaining and informative romp, from the joys of imported beer to the horror of invasion, which ably demonstrates the extent of Egyptian foreign affairs.

Pen & Sword, 2017

ISBN 978-1-78303-046-0

Hardback, £19.99.


Hilary Wilson



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